Once you've decided to lose weight or add muscle, it's totally tempting to go hardcore with your new routine. You've got a list of changes to make, and you're ready to start crushing 'em: sleeping eight hours per night, eating breakfast, tracking your five servings of fruit and veggies every day, cutting out white pasta (nooo!), becoming a mindful eater, meditating, lifting weights, foam rolling, getting your cardio in…
Is your eye twitching yet? This is exactly what many women do on day one of a lifestyle overhaul. “When people are ready to make a change, their motivation is at an all-time high," says trainer Molly Galbraith owner of Girls Gone Strong online fitness community. "They're willing to make massive changes and think they have to do it all at once to get results,” she says. Unfortunately, going all-in isn't going to get you to your goals any faster.
Big Changes Are Hard to Make
Let’s be real: weight loss levels off, stressful days happen, and workouts can feel like a struggle. That's when bad habits come back to haunt us. We go back to what feels effortless and automatic instead of sticking to our grandiose plans.
“Change is difficult because your brain craves the safety of the familiar—even when the familiar isn't serving you anymore,” says Michelle May.
After feeling like a failure, we jump into another go-big-or-go-home plan, armed with a checklist of things we need to change about ourselves. It's a vicious cycle.
What to Do Instead
Rather than overhauling your diet and exercise to punish yourself, make one small, realistic change at a time in the name of taking care of your body, says May. In the long term, making small changes can help you turn all of the healthy choices into “effortless habits,” says Galbraith.
And, in case you’re wondering, you’ll still reap the same results. Sure, when you make gradual changes, your progress will come more slowly. But the results will be more likely to stick.
How to Get Started
Pick one healthy habit that you want to be part of your lifestyle. And the easier it is, the better, says Dr Barbara Walker, a psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati. That way, you know that you can master it—and you'll get a little confidence boost when you do, says May. “Ease into it, make course corrections as needed, then build on it with another small change when you're ready,” she says
You'll know it's time when your first healthy habit feels automatic, says Walker. If you’re into hard numbers, aim to practice your habit for two to three weeks. When you nail it at least 80 percent of the time, you can add habit number two into the mix, says Galbraith. (Remember, this is about progress, not perfection.)
Keep going until you're living the healthy lifestyle you want—effortlessly.